Apr 202017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Michelle Ferguson, Cash for Kids charity manager.

An Aberdeen-based children’s charity has distributed over £17,500 of funding to 24 families and community groups to improve the lives of children living in north-east Scotland.
Cash for Kids, which supports sick, disabled and disadvantaged children living in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, has made the awards as part of its quarterly grant funding programme.

The programme’s broad remit ensures the charity is able to fulfil a diverse range of applications each year, some of which are not eligible for funding from other sources.

Two of the beneficiaries in the recent funding round are the Community Resources Hub at Aboyne Academy and local charity KidsOut – both provide activities for children with physical and learning disabilities.

The Community Resources Hub at Aboyne Academy caters for children with medium to severe and complex educational needs.
Unable to participate in mainstream education, they are taught a life skills orientated curriculum that meets their individual needs. The hub has been granted over £300 to give the children a one-day sailing session at Loch of Skene with Aberdeenshire Sailing Trust.

This session will allow the children to sample a new activity and develop their self-esteem and personal and social skills.

KidsOut is a local charity run by 17 Rotary clubs based in Aberdeen and the surrounding area.

The charity has received £3,500 to help stage its annual fun day at Craibstone Estate. Last year, around 600 children with disabilities from 35 local primary schools attended the event and enjoyed a range of activities and experiences. The funding will be used to help cover the cost of transporting the children to the event in June.

Cash for Kids distributes grant funding at the end of January, April, July and October each year, with applications assessed by its board. All applications must be endorsed by a third party, such as a social worker or health visitor, and applications for the next funding round must be submitted by Wednesday, 19 April.

Last month, in order to help fulfil future applications, Cash for Kids launched a major appeal to raise £50,000. The 500 Faces campaign looks to recruit 500 people from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire who will each commit to raise £100 for the charity by the end of December. A number of tradespeople, schoolchildren and local shops have already signed up to the initiative.

Michelle Ferguson, Cash for Kids charity manager, said:

“Cash for Kids’ quarterly grant funding programme is a central and important part of what the charity does. We look to support as diverse a range of requests as possible each quarter and encourage applications from across the region.

“All of the money Cash for Kids raises is distributed locally. It is always great to assist projects such as those run by Aboyne Academy and KidsOut that provide disabled children with fantastic new experiences that can help with their development.

“The grant programme gives families and community groups access to a source of funding that can support the purchase of items that are often not eligible for funding through other sources. For some families that can mean facilitating the purchase of specialist equipment to improve the quality of life of their sick or disabled child.”

To register to take part in Cash for Kids’ 500 Faces fundraising initiative, visit www.northsound1.com/faces.

Cash for Kids is Northsound Radio’s listeners’ charity. It makes grants to individuals, families, children’s groups, organisations and projects throughout the Northsound transmission area. All money is raised locally and spent locally to benefit local disabled and disadvantaged children and young people under 18.

More information on Cash for Kids can be found at www.northsound1.com/charity, or telephone 01224 337010.

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Apr 012017
 

Regulars at a popular Aberdeen bar have answered a call to raise thousands of pounds for a local children’s charity. With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

During 2016, customers of McNasty’s on Summer Street dug deep to raise over £5,000 for north-east charity Cash for Kids.

The bar’s owners, Stephen and Linda Taylor, were keen to once again support the charity which works to improve the lives of sick, disabled and disadvantaged children living in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

This contribution follows £4,000 handed over to the charity last year as a result of fundraising during 2015.

Central to McNasty’s annual fundraising initiative is a fortnightly quiz that attracts around 15 teams. The quizzes are set by pub regulars Barry Cooke and Iain Sluyter, something the duo have done in their spare time for the past seven years.

In addition to the fortnightly quiz, Barry and his friend Ronnie Falconer, assisted by the team at McNasty’s, have organised a number of other fundraising events at the bar. This has included race nights, raffles and band nights – at which local bands take to the stage free of charge. Amongst the bands that have performed are The Capollos and Winston Smith.

Co-owner of McNasty’s, Stephen Taylor, said:

“All of our customers and suppliers have once again got behind our fundraising and shown real generosity. To have increased the amount we handed over to Cash for Kids compared to the previous year is fantastic. It is great to know that the money will be used locally to make a real difference to the lives of children across the north-east.”

Quiz organiser Barry Cooke, who works as an operations support coordinator for Apache North Sea, said:

“The popularity of the quiz grows year-on-year, meaning that the amount we raise from it for charity also increases. Although each quiz takes time to set, the reward is in knowing how much the charity, and those that it supports, benefits.”

Cash for Kids will use all of the money donated by McNasty’s to help fulfil applications to its quarterly grant funding programme. Grants are made to individuals, families and community groups in order to help improve the quality of children’s lives. Applications for the next round of grant funding must be submitted by Friday, 14 April and endorsed by a third party such as a social worker or health visitor.

Cash for Kids charity manager Michelle Ferguson said:

“We’re very grateful to the customers and staff at McNasty’s who helped to raise this brilliant amount during 2016. Businesses committing to this type of fundraising, with the support of their customers, is very important for charities and can help to make a real difference to the lives of the people we support. In Cash for Kids’ case it is the thousands of sick, disabled or disadvantaged children that live in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

“The pub quiz at McNasty’s might not be the easiest, but Barry, Ian and the team at the pub certainly make sure it is a fun and sociable night.”

Cash for Kids is Northsound Radio’s listeners’ charity. It makes grants to individuals, families, children’s groups, organisations and projects throughout the Northsound transmission area. All money is raised locally and spent locally to benefit local disabled and disadvantaged children and young people under 18. More information on Cash for Kids can be found at www.northsound1.com/cashforkids, or telephone 01224 337010.

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Mar 172017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

A north-east charity has launched a major appeal to raise £50,000 that will be used to support the region’s sick, disabled and disadvantaged children.
Cash for Kids is looking to recruit 500 people from across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to be part of its 500 Faces fundraising campaign.

Each person that signs up will commit to raising £100 this year in order that the local children’s charity’s appeal target is reached.

Tradespeople, work colleagues, groups of friends, families and school classes are all encouraged to take part. It is hoped that the option of spreading fundraising over the course of a year will attract a number of participants.

All of the money from the 500 Faces appeal will be used to help fulfil applications to Cash for Kids’ unique grant funding programme. The charity provides grant funding to individuals, families and community groups across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire on a quarterly basis to help improve the quality of children’s lives.

For some families the grant programme is the only option open to them to fund the purchase of specialist equipment for their children, as often there are no other funding mechanisms. Each application made to the grant programme has to be endorsed by a third party such as a social worker or health visitor.

The 500 Faces appeal is taking place to ensure that as many grant applications as possible are fulfilled each quarter.  Currently, the total value of grant applications received by Cash for Kids outweighs the amount donated by the public and business community. The deadline for submitting applications for the next round of grant funding is Friday, 14 April.

Participants have nine months to reach their £100 goal – which equates to £2.50 a week – and can be as creative as they wish with their fundraising. Money can be raised through one-off challenges, a series of events or regular weekly or monthly donations.

People are expected to fundraise by undertaking sponsored running, cycling, swimming and even slimming challenges, beard shavings and leg waxing, or simply foregoing a weekly takeaway coffee and donating the equivalent value. For local businesses and tradespeople it may be as simple as donating their tips or a percentage of a month’s takings to the appeal.

Michelle Ferguson (pictured), Cash for Kids charity manager, said:

“The 500 Faces campaign is a really fun way for people to get involved with Cash for Kids and raise money throughout the year. There is real flexibility in how individuals can fundraise and no limit to how much each person raises.

“We hope that people across the region get behind the appeal and that all of those who sign up can help motivate one another in achieving their goals. The appeal website has individual and collective totalisers which should help to do this – they’re a bit like high-tech versions of the Blue Peter totalisers. 

“We are looking forward to our participants sharing their fundraising ideas, which will no doubt create some friendly competition.

“When £100 is broken down across the nine months to £2.50 a week, it is a relatively small amount and a manageable fundraising target. The impact that £100 can have on the lives of sick, disabled and disadvantaged children living in our communities is transformational. 

“From purchasing bread for breakfast clubs in deprived areas, to providing equipment for art therapy classes for disabled children, each donation does make a real difference.”

To register, visit www.northsound1.com/faces.

Cash for Kids is Northsound Radio’s listeners’ charity. It makes grants to individuals, families, children’s groups, organisations and projects throughout the Northsound transmission area.  All money is raised locally and spent locally to benefit local disabled and disadvantaged children and young people under 18. More information on Cash for Kids can be found at www.northsound1.com/charity, or telephone 01224 337010.

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Mar 102017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Sick, disabled and disadvantaged children living in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire will benefit after six local couples said ‘I do’ to raising thousands of pounds for charity for the chance to win a dream wedding.
The brides and grooms to be were taking part in Aberdeen-based children’s charity Cash for Kids’ annual Win Your Wedding fundraising competition.

On offer for the couple who raised the most money was an exclusive wedding package at a leading four-star Aberdeenshire hotel. 

In total, the six duos raised £57,191.20 in just two weeks. They took on a wide range of fundraising challenges, including a five-a-side football tournament, pub quizzes, coffee mornings, auctions, bucket collections, a duck race, bag-packing and sponsored leg waxing and beard-shavings.

Raising the most money were Ellon couple Natasha Matthew and Grant Reid who collected £12,197.83. The reward for their efforts was a dream wedding day at the award-winning Meldrum Country House Hotel. The winners’ wedding package, which is worth around £25,000, includes a reception in the Oldmeldrum hotel’s new ballroom, which opened last year.

Also included in the wedding package are venue décor, a wedding dress, grooms’ wear, flowers, wedding rings, health, fitness and beauty packages, along with wedding cars, photography and childcare for the big day. All of the items have been donated by local businesses.

Natasha and Grant, who met at school and got engaged eight years ago, say they’re really proud of their achievement. Natasha said:

“Grant and I have really enjoyed raising the money for Cash for Kids, but we could not have done it without all of our supporters who have been so generous with their time and money. We really can’t thank everyone enough and we can’t wait to start planning our big day as soon as possible.”

Over the past six years the Win Your Wedding contest has seen couples who are planning to tie the knot raise over £185,000 for Cash for Kids. 

The charity provides grant funding to individuals, families and community groups on a quarterly basis and all of the money that the competition raises is used to help fulfil these grant applications. The deadline for submitting applications for the next round of grant funding is Friday, 14 April.

Michelle Ferguson, Cash for Kids charity manager, said:

“We are very grateful to our couples who have all made such an amazing effort to collectively raise more than £57,000. Our thanks must also go to everyone who has helped them raise this phenomenal amount of money by taking part in their fundraising initiatives and donating to Cash for Kids.

“Every penny that the couples raised is distributed to individual children, families and community groups in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, making a huge difference to their lives. The couples’ hard work and enthusiasm has been second to none.

“The support and generosity shown by the local businesses who helped us put together this fantastic package for Win Your Wedding is very much appreciated.

“Meldrum House is a stunning setting for a wedding and the hotel’s involvement has certainly helped generate interest in the contest. Without the support of all the businesses, we would not be able to run this competition or assist all the children that we do through our unique grant scheme.”

Cash for Kids is Northsound Radio’s listeners’ charity. It makes grants to individuals, families, children’s groups, organisations and projects throughout the Northsound transmission area. All money is raised locally and spent locally to benefit local disabled and disadvantaged children and young people under 18.

More information on Cash for Kids can be found at www.northsound1.com/cashforkids, or telephone 01224 337010.

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Nov 122015
 
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tim Martin of Ramboll Oil & Gas, meets pupils involved in Northsound Schools Energy Challenge.

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Pupils from four secondary schools in the north east of Scotland attended the Aberdeen office of global engineering consultancy Ramboll Oil & Gas to take part in a quiz designed to test their knowledge of the energy industry.

Teams from Dyce, Fraserburgh, Inverurie and Hazlehead Academies took part in the quarter finals of the Northsound Energy Schools Challenge, a hotly-contested annual competition for school pupils in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

But those wishing to learn the results of the hard-fought contest will need to tune in to local radio station Northsound One on Sunday, November 29 at 3.30pm.

Ramboll Oil & Gas has sponsored the popular energy industry quiz, run annually by Northsound One, in an effort to encourage young people to consider the energy industry as a career option. This comes after an announcement earlier this year that, despite the challenging economic climate, Ramboll Oil & Gas UK will expand its Aberdeen workforce by up to one third after securing £1.3m worth of new work since the start of the year.

Tim Martin, managing director of Ramboll Oil & Gas UK, says,

“At a time when other firms may not be looking to hire, we are in the very fortunate position to be looking towards expansion. There are still a great many opportunities for those wishing to enter the industry.

“The energy industry offers very rewarding career prospects, and we are delighted to be involved in a competition that fosters an interest in the industry amongst school pupils. Those competing in the Northsound Energy Schools Challenge are the future of the energy industry, and everything should be done to encourage their passion and enthusiasm.

“We were incredibly impressed by the knowledge and professionalism of all of the teams, and regardless of who is the overall winner of the competition I am confident that these pupils have long and successful careers in the energy industry ahead of them.”

The Northsound Energy Schools Challenge is broadcast on Northsound One every Sunday afternoon at 3.30pm.

Ramboll Oil & Gas is a business unit within the Ramboll Group. With more than four decades of experience, the company is a well-established, independent and highly regarded provider of offshore and onshore engineering consultancy services for the oil and gas industry. Today, Ramboll Oil & Gas has offices in the USA, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, India, Denmark, Norway and UK, and employs around 900 specialists.

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Sep 102015
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Some of the Lloyd's Register Kiltwalk team

Some of the Lloyd’s Register team that completed the Kiltwalk in aid of Cash for Kids

Staff from the Aberdeen office of Lloyd’s Register pulled on their walking boots recently and completed a 26-mile walk in aid of local children’s charity Cash for Kids.
A 26-strong team from the global engineering, technical and business services organisation took part in the Aberdeen Kiltwalk, which saw them walk from the city’s Duthie Park along the Deeside Way to Potarch.

In the process the group raised over £4,800 for Cash for Kids, which supports sick, disabled and disadvantaged children and young people living in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

This was the second successive year that a team from Lloyd’s Register had taken on the Aberdeen Kiltwalk. Nineteen staff completed the route last year and encouraged others to participate this year.

The team was inspired to complete the walk in aid of Cash for Kids after learning about the work the charity does to support young people living in the region. Both the walk and the charity fit with Lloyd’s Register’s values of supporting local children’s charities, encouraging team building and promoting health and well-being. Staff took the opportunity to strengthen relationships with staff in the firm’s other Aberdeen offices by including them in their team.

In total the group raised over £7,700, with £2,900 being distributed amongst the event’s other charity partners.

Dressed in kilts and tartan tutus, the group encountered mixed weather on their fundraising stroll. It was warm throughout, and although they basked in some sunshine they did endure heavy downpours of rain and hail. Each team member took an estimated 58,000 steps to cover the distance, with some picking up blisters along the way, caused either by poorly chosen socks or footwear.

Jason Harris, senior integrity engineer, Lloyd’s Register, said:

“I came up with the idea of participating in the Kiltwalk in 2014 and roped in a large group of colleagues to take on the challenge. It was such a fantastic experience that I jumped at the chance of participating again in 2015. The aim was to put together an even bigger squad and surpass the phenomenal amount of money we raised last year, which we did.

“My walking partner for the majority of the day, Stuart Murdo, and I were first from our team to cross the finish line in a time of six hours and 26 minutes. The final member of the LR Kiltwalk team that I had ‘willingly assembled’ completed the route 10 hours and 9 minutes after setting off from Duthie Park.

“As we sat in the park at Potarch, enjoying the live music with some well-earned refreshments, comparing our aches and blisters whilst watching walkers finish the event, it started to hit home with everyone what a fantastic achievement we had made as a collective team.

“The incredible fundraising efforts through sponsorship and events supported by the local LR office for Cash for Kids made every painful mile worthwhile.  Motivating us along the route were pictures of the children that the money raised would be directly helping.  It spurred us all on and will do so when we take on the challenge again in 2016.”

Cash for Kids charity manager Michelle Ferguson said:

“This was a fantastic effort by all of the Lloyd’s Register team.  Walking 26 miles in one go is no mean feat, and resulted in blisters, sore feet and aching joints. The sense of achievement in completing the walk and the knowledge of how much they had raised will no doubt have soothed their aliments for a short while.

“It is the individuals and groups that take on challenges such as the Aberdeen Kiltwalk which plays an important role in the charitable sector. This donation of over £4,800 to Cash for Kids could either help to fund intensive physiotherapy for a child with cerebral palsy, purchase equipment for children to use at a community skatepark, or buy a specialist bed for a disabled child.”

Cash for Kids is Northsound Radio’s listeners’ charity. It makes grants to individuals, families, children’s groups, organisations and projects throughout the Northsound transmission area. All money is raised locally and spent locally to benefit local disabled and disadvantaged children and young people under 18.

More information on Cash for Kids can be found at www.northsound1.com/cashforkids, or telephone 01224 337010.

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Aug 092013
 

Momentum is an organisation which helps people with brain injuries reach their full potential. Their third Top Hats & Tiaras Grand Ball takes place on 14 September this year at the Aberdeen Hilton Treetops Hotel.  Rhian Johns has benefitted from Momentum’s services, and tells Aberdeen Voice how Momentum helped.

Momentum is a voluntary organisation which offers rehabilitation and training services, empowering people with an acquired brain injury to gain the skills and confidence that they need to live independently and to fulfil their employment goals.

It is a charity close to my heart as in April 2006, at the age of 20, I suffered a brain haemorrhage followed by long-term ventilation and severe lung complications and now epilepsy.
I was in a coma for 5 weeks, Intensive Care for 2 ½ months and another 2 months in the Neurology ward.

Following various intensive therapy sessions to aid my physical recovery and to start learning to read and write again, I was well enough to be able to attend Momentum’s Pathway programme in April 2007, as part of my rehabilitation and recovery and with their incredible help and support I returned to Robert Gordon University in 2008, graduating in 2011 with a BA in Fashion Management.

Since coming out of hospital, it has been the hardest time of my life, but Momentum helped me to get my life back on track.

They helped me to realise and understand exactly what had happened to me and how to cope with it. I really appreciated meeting other people who had suffered brain injuries.  It is a big comfort knowing that there are people who understand what it’s like to have your life turned upside down. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Momentum’s help and support.

It is important to me to thank them by raising funds for their Grampian Brain Injury Centre, based in Aberdeen.

I couldn’t be happier to be holding our third Top Hats & Tiaras Grand Ball on 14 September this year at the Aberdeen Hilton Treetops Hotel in Springfield Road at 7.00pm.

The evening starts with a sparkling drinks reception, followed by a 3-course meal and coffee. Entertainment for the evening is the fantastic Burlesque, the band who aims to get everyone on the dance floor from the first song.  Our auctioneer for the evening is Highland League legend Ian Thain,  helped by our MC for the evening, Rebecca Curran of Northsound 1.

I would love for you all to join us.  More information and tickets can be obtained from Lucy on 07557 853500 or lucy.wilson@momentumfundraising.co.uk.

For information on how Momentum has helped people in the Grampian Brain Injury centre check out: http://momentumskills.org.uk/fundraising/eventsto-hats-tiaras-ball

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Sep 132012
 

By Suzanne Kelly. 

‘Undemocratic!’ is the cry coming from various people in Government and some Aberdeen residents concerning the death of the granite web scheme.

The truth is that democracy took a beating in the way the referendum campaign was waged, in the secrecy over the TIF ranking the scheme received, and in the statements made by ministers who should know they were overstepping their bounds.

For those who really care about ‘Democracy’ and how it has been chipped at by those insistent that the web goes ahead, here is an overview of some newly emerged issues.

  • TIF Application:  Information Wrongfully Withheld

Last Sunday 9 September, the  Sunday Herald  carried two articles pertinent to how undemocratically the granite web has been pushed.  The first piece by Steven Vass was entitled FOI Victory Over Aberdeen Project’.  Vass explains that the Scottish Government and the Scottish Futures Trust have been criticised by the Information Commissioner.  These two organisations are refusing to release information on Aberdeen’s TIF bid, in particular how it was ranked against other projects. 

TIF is meant to be used for deprived areas.  Our city centre needs improvement, and a good place to start would be practical assistance to local businesses which now must compete with multinationals in our shopping malls (which have far more financial power than the little guy does). 

We are not, however, a deprived area; businesses are continuing to set up shop here, our housing prices are good, and our standard of living has on the whole been found to rank highly in the UK. 

So why can’t we find out more about the TIF application?  Is it possible that our TIF application was one of the lower-scoring ones? (It was ,after all, soundly criticised by an independent accountant.)  If it was not a high-scorer, then was it given priority unfairly over other projects? 

In the interests of democracy, whatever side of the debate you are on, you have to agree that withholding critical information which could help evaluate the facts is undoubtedly undemocratic.  The information Commissioner has concluded as much , and hopefully on 22 October the truth of the situation will be revealed.  Either that, or the Government and the SFT will appeal to the Court of Session. 

It will be interesting to find out who was involved in this non-compliance with the democratic principle of Freedom of Information, and to find out what they have to hide.  It will be interesting as well to see if the Government refuses the Information Commissioner’s decision and lodges a Court of Session appeal.  

There is legislation saying this information should be supplied, and yet it is being withheld against the Information Commissioner’s decision. Verdict:  Undemocratic

  • Above the Law?  How BiG Partnership and an Anonymous Group of Businessmen Seized the Airwaves with Propaganda

The other article in the Sunday Herald brings us to an even more serious issue.  This article, entitled ‘How to get ahead in the race to the White House…by advertising’ explains how voters are bombarded with election propaganda and how important it is to spend on adverts.  It also brings us to the decision just released by OFCOM against the radio advertising that took place during the referendum.

The Herald article explains the vast sums spent on TV and radio ads to try to secure election victories in the US.  The article quotes Erika Fowler, the associate professor running the Wesleyan Media Project:

“  Campaigns are not going for efficiency, they are going for moderate voters in the centre who have not made up their minds.  There are going to be many, many people tuning out the messages, but in a competitive election cycle, you really are going for that last one or two percentage points.  So the parties and the interest groups… are going to do whatever it takes to get a competitive advantage.”

And as the article says,

“That means spending money…”

The American spin doctors and PR firms know, as do their UK counterparts, that advertising works.  And OFCOM, the communications regulator, knows it as well.  It exists to prevent the public being misled, and it has come down hard against the aggressive saturation campaign and adverts placed by The BiG Partnership on  behalf of the anonymous VFTCGP members- what do they have to hide?

As a referendum campaigner who had to obey stringent rules and spending limits, I was astounded that an unelected and anonymous group, ‘Vote for the City Gardens Project’ were allowed to place a huge volume of radio and print advertising.  Not only did they have a degree of media saturation which I couldn’t have hoped for – but the contents of their ads were misleading.  Why do I say that?  Here are two direct quotes from the ads and my comments on each:-

1.  Quote:  “I’m voting yes because of the £182 million of investment to the city centre – and it’s all coming from grants and private donations so it won’t cost the taxpayer a penny.”

“The City Garden Project won’t cost you a penny, it will be paid for through private donations and business rates.”

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/enforcement/broadcast-bulletins/obb213/obb213.pdf – see Pages 6 and 7

Comment As demonstrated by invoices paid by the City Council, taxpayer money has ALREADY been spent on this project for advertising, PR and ‘stakeholder engagement’ in the region of at least £200,000.  What is galling is that the BiG Partnership, working closely with ACSEF would have known this.  In fact, it is still a mystery what agency or agencies carried out the PR, advertising and photography:  was BiG a recipient of taxpayer money?  If so, how democratic or ethical was this agency acting when it submitted these ads for broadcast?

2.  Quote:  “It will create twice as much green space in the City Centre.”  (reference as above)

Comment We have a green park – when I say green, there is a deep, rich fertile layer of soil supporting wildlife and ancient trees. (Democracy fans note – there are trees and species in this park which are protected by UK and EU law, even though the past administration allowed fireworks displays in the gardens). 

If you build underground structures and have a layer of topsoil over them, you won’t have the same environmental quality as we do now. 

If you chop the trees down, and build a 5,000 seat outdoor theatre on formerly rich soil, then there is absolutely no way that you are going to double the amount of green space. 

Layers of turf over the concrete theatre’s roof and making similar turf-clad structures does not mean you can claim you are doubling genuine green space. 

By the way, the idea of building an outdoor theatre in Aberdeen makes very little sense indeed weather-wise.  Building a theatre in front of where a theatre already exists raises questions about the ‘non-displacement’ concept – rules are  supposed to prohibit using public resources to build something that will compete with or take away from an existing business – but this is being conveniently overlooked. 

Aside from my opinions on the accuracy of these ads – Aberdonian citizens were bombarded with over 200 ads on Northsound 1 and 2, and Original 106 played ads over 100 times  between 16 and 29 February.  ( In contrast, Mike Shepherd had one ad played a total of 26 times).

The point is that if so much as one person heard these hundreds of ads, assumed they were true (after all, the trusted radio stations continued to run them) and voted for the web based on these spurious claims (no cost to the taxpayer, double (??) the green space magically created), then the commercials and the big money behind them unduly influenced the referendum result.

What really beggars belief is the behaviour of the BiG Partnership.

They were involved with ACSEF to push the web scheme.  They know that invoices were paid by the taxpayer for consultation, PR, ‘stakeholder engagement’, photos and the like (even including a photo for about £150 meant to show how ‘inaccessible’ the gardens are). 

They knew that the web was already costing the taxpayer money, yet they were involved with creating and placing advertisements on radio saying the taxpayer wouldn’t pay a penny.  Whatever your position on the web is, don’t  you agree this is unethical?

  People would have been influenced by hundreds of ads

BiG also appear to have placed these ads apparently without getting full advice and clearance.  Reading OFCOM’s decision, it is easy to conclude the ads would not have been deemed acceptable had clearance been asked for in advance.

How does an organisation as big and experienced as BiG explain itself to the regulator?  This is what they said:-

“Northsound told us that this organisation was set up by a group of private individuals who supported the re-development project. They were not a formally constituted organisation, the Licensee said, and had “no legal status”. This advertiser appointed The BIG Partnership, a public relations consultancy, to run and manage its campaign.

“The BIG Partnership made the following comments through the Licensee:

“This campaign was set up a by a group of private individuals who wanted to see the project go ahead. They were not a formally constituted organisation. They have no legal status. They got together and appointed The BIG Partnership to run and manage the campaign and they provided funds for that campaign. The City Garden Project, as part of the wider city centre regeneration scheme, will be funded by private donations and a TIF scheme whereby Aberdeen City Council borrows money to pay for the regeneration and uses the new business rates generated by new business across the city as a result of the regeneration to pay back the loan. It will not be financed by Aberdeen City Council’s annual revenue budget and therefore not have an impact on local council tax payers or on the delivery of public services. The group behind the campaign is not political. The campaign aimed to influence the outcome of the referendum by communicating the facts and the benefits of the project to the public. The objectors to the project also ran similar advertisements.”

If there is even a single person  who voted for the project based on these radio ads, which should never have been aired, or has a friend or relative who was taken in by these ads, then they should come forward now and say so.  (Write to me if you wish; I can keep your details anonymous if you prefer  sgvk27@aol.com)

An anonymous group of people, via an experienced agency,  placed ads which should never have been aired .  The ads contain spurious claims, but at the time the regulatory bodies were unable to intervene.  The regulator has found the ads in breach of code. 

We need to know who the VFTCGP members were to see whether there were any conflicts of interest.  People would have been influenced by hundreds of ads, the contents of which could not be contested at the time. 

Whatever side of the issue you are on, if you care about law, democracy and fairness, you must admit these ads should not have aired and would have influenced the voters who heard them.  Verdict:  Extraordinarily Undemocratic

( Note –  BiG has not answered questions on this issue at the time of going to press. )

  • Local Newspaper Coverage:  Lacking and Slanted

Unfortunately our local hard copy tabloids, the Press & Journal and its sister, the Evening Express, are clearly in favour of the web going ahead. 

Their coverage in the past has seemed one-sided.  However, they have chosen to exclude the news item about the information Commissioner’s verdict re. the TIF details.  They have covered other Information Commission decisions in the past, and this one certainly has local importance. 

More importantly, at the time of writing, no local tabloid has mentioned the OFCOM decision, and instead have run pieces critical of the Labour administration.  The BBC and the Herald have decided these two stories were newsworthy enough to be published.  The local press did not find room for them, but do have articles on a new chocolate shop opening in the mall, and a photo of a black swan. 

Note –  The local press has not answered questions on this issue at the time of going to press.

Is it possible that our papers are slanting coverage to please their advertisers?  It just might be possible.  Verdict:  Newspapers can take any side of an issue they want; that is democracy.  However, do you want a paper that gives you one side of an issue, or one that covers all ground?

  • Democracy:  Labouring the Point

This is a good time to discuss Labour and Democracy.  When the referendum was announced, Labour said at the outset it did not agree with holding it, and explained they were already legally representing their constituents.  They also pointed out that the referendum was not a legal vote that had to be adhered to; it was in law always just a consultation (like the one we had before which rejected the city square). 

Labour told the people that if elected, they would scrap the City Gardens Project, which by the way was still in its infancy.  Some people seem to feel the web was a done deal.  It had not had TIF approval yet – it lacks details (we don’t have anything other than fanciful artist drawings which ignore necessary architectural and safety features which would make the thing look far different from the concept art), and it had to go through planning.

Labour explained what was wrong with the referendum before it started, and vociferously objected to all the abuses that went on during the campaign.  They asked to be elected with scrapping the CGP as a main campaign plank:  they did what they were elected to do  Verdict:  Democratic

  • SNP Sniping

It is very interesting to see in today’s Press and Journal our Scottish Government minister for planning,  Derek MacKay, speaking out against Labour over the web – which is a planning issue.  There are guidelines which direct him not to make such statements, but he seems to be ignoring them.

Is a minister involved with planning overstepping his remit and going contrary to Scottish Ministerial Code?  Seems like it.  Verdict:  Out of Order
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/12/01141452/9

  •  Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Feb 172012
 

Old Susannah looks at the Granite Web, and the impressive effort it has taken to spin.

By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho! Yet another vibrant and dynamic week in the Granite Web City.  Whilst Friends of Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen against Austerity, and Democracy Watch engaged in some inexpensive grassroots campaigning by flyer, the mysterious Vote for the CGP group pulled out all the stops and spent, spent, spent.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Northsound is playing City Garden Project commercials non-stop. The Art Gallery has a swish new display showing the Garden plan in its Alice-in-Wonderland perspective and garish colours, and issues of The Granite Web compete in the ugly stakes with the A3 VFTCGP colour flyer sent out before.

News reaches Old Susannah that visitors to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary are being cheered up no end by pro-City Garden Project posters on the walls. There is no escape at work either, as employees of Wood Group (no surprise really), Nautronix, and Taqa all seem to have received lovely e-mails from bosses hinting gently that they should vote for the CGP.

I do find it very touching that employers are looking after their employees so well and giving gentle guidance which puts no pressure on them at all.

Why do I call the VFTCGP members secret? Because I was told in so many words by the BIG Partnership, which does PR for this group and, coincidentally, the artwork for the CGP, that “if the members want to stay secret, it’s up to them.”

But before I return to my Myth-busting busting activities started last week – I only got through the first four of the ten Myths the CGP team say we’re suffering from – condolences to Rangers fans.

Was this one of the top Scottish clubs? Yes.

Will this leave a massive hole in Scottish football? Yes.

Will other sides face similar financial clubs? Looks like it.

I believe one tycoon is still paying some £60,000 of his own money each time his team plays. I do hope this mogul is not getting overly financially stretched. I’d again ask the question if Loirston Loch land – in a Special Area of Conservation – should really be turned into a 21,000 seat football ground with offices and museum in this climate.

  Donald’s granny was Scottish. This gives him good cause to call Alex Salmond ‘insane’

Well, I would ask, but the continuous concrete covering of anything green in Aberdeen seems unstoppable. Thankfully, we all have one tireless, gentle campaigner who is not giving up the fight for ‘Scotland’s heritage’. Step forward, Mr Donald Trump.

You might have seen one or two small news items saying that this gentle giant wants to build the galaxy’s greatest golf course on a no-doubt-underused stretch of coastline. He’s got rid of many of the view-blocking trees, but there are horrible plans to build windfarms offshore which could actually be seen by his guests, if you can believe that!

Now, windfarms don’t actually work very efficiently yet. The technology can, and should improve. But I guess we’re all agreed there are few things in life worse than being a rich golfer who might have to look at an offshore wind farm. For those people in favour of this kind of blot on the seascape, I would remind you that you’re forgetting something very important.

Donald’s granny was Scottish. This gives him good cause to call Alex Salmond ‘insane’ for supporting renewable energy. Please try to keep that in mind, thank you.

Finally, it might have been Valentine’s Day this week, but it looks like the May to December romance between Callum McCaig and Aileen ‘Ho’Malone is over. One of them is an over-blown, over-hyped, over-rated, naïve, headline-seeking soul, blissfully unaware that they are dangerously out of their depth. The other is Callum McCaig.

No more will they share a coalition; there will be no more romps on Tullos Hill; there will be no more late-night negotiations. Maybe yet the SNP will change its tune over the ridiculous cull of deer to plant trees that cannot possibly grow on Tullos Hill. Watch this space.

  the taxpayers’ side of this great granite garden bargain is to borrow £92m and pay the loan, and its interest, back over decades.

There is certainly a current in that direction, not least fuelled by public anger and the wasting of some £43,800 to date. Still, a break-up is hard to take. Final confirmation of this great bust-up comes in newspaper stories announcing that the coalition is still absolutely fine. I am thinking of offering my condolences to Mrs Robinson, sorry, I mean Aileen.

I’m still thinking on it. PS. Message to Irene – feel better soon!

And now back to debunking the debunking of the Myths. The City Garden Project seems to be the only entity that’s been presented with these Myths, and I commented on the first four last week. Here are a few choice words on the remaining five Myths. Thank you CGP for printing these not-at-all-wild and not-at-all-made-up Myths – we’re all really onside now. Their comments are in bold. Old Susannah’s are in regular type

5. It will cost the taxpayer millions of pounds – FALSE.

Sure. All this happens for free, and you’ve not paid a penny, and you won’t pay a penny. I wonder if the CGP forgot about the £422,000, or probably more, of taxpayers’ money Scottish Enterprise has already spent on this project? And, no doubt, our CGP friends don’t think it matters that some of your city councillors voted to set aside up to £300,000 of your money for legal costs.

Old Susannah is still mulling that one over. A billionaire is ‘giving’ Aberdeen £50m, but there isn’t enough money on his side of the fence to pay the legal costs the city will incur? So, rather than getting granny a new wheelchair, or providing 24/7 care at homes which have just announced cuts etc etc, Wood wants your £300,000. But this £722,000, nearly quarter of a million pounds, is small change.  we’re going to chop down existing, healthy trees, thus getting rid of wildlife that’s called the trees home for decades, if not centuries

Multiply that figure by ten and you get close to the amount of interest on the loan Aberdeen City Council has to sign for this project to go ahead, according to one of last night’s radio show speakers. Thanks to Original FM (on 105FM) for hosting last night’s debate. Anyway, the taxpayers’ side of this great granite garden bargain is to borrow £92m and pay the loan, and its interest, back over decades.

If the 6500 new jobs don’t come in and we don’t make £122m each year (I can’t wait to see how this happens), if we go over budget, if anything goes wrong – then it will cost us an unknown additional amount of money in repayments. The trams fiasco has reached a cost of nearly one billion pounds.

But this won’t cost you a cent. Honest, guv.

6. Fake, plastic trees – FALSE.

It’s a great Radiohead song but a lousy Myth. It has been suggested that fake plastic trees will be planted in the City Gardens to act as vents for the giant car park underneath. If any fake trees are seen they will be beside the flying pigs. 186 new trees will be planted, some of them mature and many will be Scots Pines.

Old Susannah doesn’t know where to start with this alleged Myth. She does find it reassuring to find that a job in public relations entails so much creative writing talent. I know of no-one who’s heard of plastic trees being part of the plan. However, if we’re building underground, then we’ll need plants with very tiny root systems. Goodbye 250-year old elm trees, one of only a few surviving clusters of elms free from disease, and home to wildlife. In comes progress. Who needs fresh air, wildlife, shade and beauty when you can have ramps?

   we’re going to chop down existing, healthy trees, thus getting rid of wildlife that’s called the trees home for decades, if not centuries

My favourite bit is the announcement that the trees stay in the Gardens forever, as wood chip and seating. Well, you can’t say that’s not sensitive to nature. Still, the BIG Partnership’s student placement has managed to make a meal of a non-existent plastic tree myth. Perhaps someone will explain how mature trees are going to be magically planted in the new Gardens?

Where will their roots go, as there is meant to be underground parking? How do we get to have a thriving pine forest in the city centre – something that doesn’t seem possible according to experts including local architects?

If Old Susannah has this right, we’re going to chop down existing, healthy trees, thus getting rid of wildlife that’s called the trees home for decades, if not centuries, plant some new trees, and have the world’s only pine forest in a city centre.

The pines must grow faster than genetically-modified Leylandii hedges if the drawings I’ve seen are correct, and of course, no-one can fault the accuracy of these precision drawings. I like the giant transparent child romping over the flowerbeds best. So, replacing grass and trees with grass, concrete and trees can be done for only £92m. RESULT!

7. It will cost people their jobs – FALSE.

As a result of the project a projected 6500 new jobs are to be created, not taking into account the hundreds of jobs that will come as a result of the construction. In addition, a transformed city centre will breathe new life across the city, helping us become a World Energy City long after oil and gas has run dry in the North Sea. Existing businesses will be retained meaning existing jobs will be safe-guarded.

These 6500 jobs are going to be wonderful! What will they be? Well, for openers we’ve seen how well Union Square has protected high street businesses. Our small high street shops are struggling whilst multinationals got a cheap rent deal in Union Square. But clearly what we need is….more shops. Surely there is nothing we’d rather do than shop, and you can’t have enough shops can you? It’s not as if a glut of shops will ever result in shop closures, price wars and endless sales, especially ‘Going out of business’ sales.

I wonder if there is any reason that a cafe culture has never really taken off in Aberdeen? Could it be that it’s often too cold, too windy or too rainy? Could it be because the City Council consistently refused to allow anyone to run a snack bar or coffee kiosk in the shelter of Union Terrace Gardens? Clearly not. One wave of the granite wand, and just like those convincing concept drawings, we’ll all be sitting outdoors in short-sleeved shirts, drinking decaf mocha lattes while Toto play on the brand new stage, in front of the existing indoor theatre.

Right. The taxpayer is propping up the AECC with extra money since it can’t make enough by holding events. Same for the Lemon Tree. But the new theatre won’t have any problems making a massive profit and creating loads of jobs.

 So, ‘how many theatres should a taxpayer prop up?’ is one question.

I for one can’t wait to sit through an outdoor electronic folk music competition in February. But, by winter, this theatre will be an ice rink, thereby competing with the ice rink the city tried to kill off before.

But no, there won’t be any harm to jobs. We’ll need people to cut down the trees and get rid of the wildlife. Then there will be jobs cleaning the graffiti off the Web. Yes, the Web will create more permanent jobs in small Aberdeen than the 2012 Olympics will create in Greater London. Rest as assured as I am on that point.

8. It will be entirely made from concrete – FALSE.

Obviously concrete will be used – would you like to relax, visit an exhibition or attend a concert on top of a cardboard box? The project has been carefully designed so there will be 95% more open, green space with a series of pathways providing access for people through, across and in and out of the gardens. These paths will be made of granite, crushed granite and wood.

By now, Old Susannah is finding the content of the dispelled Myths by BIG just a little bit patronising and smarmy. They thought they had to talk us out of believing in plastic trees. Now they explain that we need to sit on something more robust than a cardboard box. Thanks for that! Appreciated.

So, ‘how many theatres should a taxpayer prop up?’ is one question. ‘How many competing businesses should Scottish Enterprise suggest?’ is quite another. They used to have rules on displacement and suchlike, but these seem to have gone, probably about the same time as your employer started to tell you how to vote.

This project has been carefully designed. Of course it has. More green space, but somehow it manages to have a giant concrete, sorry, granite theatre which takes up some 15% minimum of the existing Gardens. They count the giant granite potato-crisp shaped thingy over the stage as green space.

 what if the architects were to give us some drawings showing how these ramps will work safely now rather than later?

Of course it won’t sustain any wildlife, and at best will be a thin wedge of sod over concrete, but if they want to call it green space, fine.

I guess these people call anything green space if they can colour it green with Crayolas on their paper plan.

Looking at the slope of the ramps both up and downwards, I’m wondering how the aged, infirm or wheelchair-bound are going to find this system easier than the current access. The current access could use an additional ramp and you could probably do this for less than £92m as well. For the truly baffled, there is ground level access on the north side, not far from the theatre. This is where vehicles somehow manage to get in.

Clearly there is no other way to ‘relax and visit an exhibition or attend a concert in this town.’ Let’s borrow £92 million and build this beauty.

9. There will be no railings in the Granite Web, people will fall from the paths – FALSE.

Safety will be paramount. The concept design shows the various walkways at different levels but the final design will show how these work safely. And, seriously, do you think any development in a country obsessed with health and safety would get off the ground without proper safety measures?

Our PR work placement is patronising us again. I might be old, but here’s a crazy idea – what if the architects were to give us some drawings showing how these ramps will work safely now rather than later? Are they going to be enclosed, and of course, not at all potential rat traps? Are they going to have fencing that somehow won’t look like Stalag 17? How will wheelchair users go up and down these steep ramps? Details, details.

Well, Old Susannah has run out of space for one week. We will return to normal definitions next week, and take a closer look at who is behind ‘Vote for the City Garden Project’. You will, of course, want to know what businesses are in this group, to make sure you can reward them with your custom. Or not.

Finally, many thanks to those brave business people who have stuck out their necks in favour of saving our city’s only unique, free, green garden.

That’s you, J Milne. It is appreciated.

Jul 222011
 

Last week in the first of this two part investigation, Suzanne Kelly described how The City Council and its officials were dealing with the Tullos Hill roe deer cull and tree-planting issues. Part 1 also covered the decades of arson on ‘The Gramps’, the excellent quality of Tullos Hill as it is, local community councils’ opposition to the cull, and the considerable public anger at the City’s refusal to even consider modifying its plans.

The hill itself is a wildlife haven; the very important gorse providing homes to bees and birds.  There are fields of wildflowers (the spectacular Dame’s Violets for instance), and it is a recreation area.

This is why our City Council – as a LibDem election pledge – want to turn it into some gargantuan 40,000-tree profit-making (ie lumber-producing) forest.

We now look at other important aspects of this issue, challenge the government to comment, and propose some actions.

The Gorse is always Greener

‘Kissing is out of fashion when the gorse is not in bloom’ goes an old saying – based on the fact gorse virtually always has blossoms.  This is an extremely useful plant for bees.  If you’ve not been made aware, bee populations around the world are in serious trouble.

As long as we still want our plants to be pollinated so we keep eating, we are well advised to do all we can to encourage bees.  My research leads me to conclude that gorse is far better for bees and several other species than trees are (particularly trees which will be cut down for profit when the Council chooses).

Don’t take my word for the importance of gorse.  Do take Dr. Ian Rotherham’s word:-

“Gorse is an incredibly valuable habitat for wildlife – supporting a diversity of invertebrates and many birds and mammals. It provides dense cover plus abundant nesting sites, invertebrate food associated with the gorse, and of course the blaze of flowers during much of the year. Butterflies, bees, hoverflies, spiders, badgers, whinchats, stonechats, yellowhammers, chaffinches, linnets, greenfinches, meadow pipits and skylarks for example, all thrive in gorse-rich areas.

“As the biomass of gorse builds up it loses vigour and beings to die back. If there is a fire then the gorse is reduced to ground level and will quickly regenerate for the next 30-40 years or so. Clearly fire risk can be a problem but not for the gorse or the associated wildlife (except at the immediate time of a conflagration).

“Cyclical cutting of gorse, grazing, and cutting of fire-breaks are positive ways to reduce risk and damage but to maintain what is a rich but often unappreciated wildlife habitat. The establishment of a friends group to watch over the area would also help reduce risk. The gorse in bloom is also a wonderful landscape feature. A plantation wood does not provide a biodiversity resource or a landscape feature to match this. Trees are often planted at the expense of the wildlife habitats and landscape features because of the misconception that they are inherently better for wildlife – which they are not – and because money is available as grants to do this.”

(  Dr  Rotherham is a Professor of Environmental Geography, Reader in Tourism & Environmental Change, International Research Coordinator, associated with universities around the world. He is editor of several important academic publications including International Journal of Urban Forestry, Journal of Practical Ecology & Conservation, and International Urban Ecology Review )

I would be interested to hear from any City Council officer, ranger or pro -Tullos Hill tree plantation consultant wishing to comment on Dr Rotherham’s statement. 

In the meantime, Ian Talboys, Countryside Ranger for Aberdeen wrote to me on 6 June:-

“The amount of gorse on the site will be substantially reduced to make way for the tree planting
which again reduces the risk of wilful fires”.

Why should a countryside ranger particularly be keen to change an ecosystem such as  Tullos to a profit-making, lumber-producing forest?  Where is the evidence that replacing gorse with saplings and trees will reduce wilful fire risk?

City  Council ‘austerity’ and ‘budget’ cuts

I spoke to a person connected to the countryside services for the Council.  They advised me that like virtually every branch of our local government, they are now expected to find income streams and do all they can to make money.

It is not enough that our environment is under threat from over-development, pollution and loss of biodiversity – our environmental conservation activities are supposed to make money for the City.  Would our rangers’ time be better served in patrolling the fire-prone areas, educating people and engaging in active conservation, or are we asking them to look for grants such as the tree-planting ones and to make money at all costs?

If I get an answer to this question, I will share it with you.  Again, I invite comment from the City.

I still await a reply as to how this timber business is going to be set up, and for a copy of the business plan.  Should any of this information ever be forthcoming from our elected officials, I will share it with you.  Again, should any City proponents of the scheme like to come forward and (finally) explain how the timber business will work, I invite them to do so.

It has just been announced that despite negotiations with Unions being incomplete, the City has signed an agreement with external consultants to make £120 million worth of budget savings over a five-year period (cost of these consultants has been estimated at between £500k to £600k).  Perhaps they will have their own opinion as to the viability of a timber business venture on an arson hotspot which has already resulted in the City returning £43,800 to the Forestry Commission…

Failed Tree Planting, Failed Open Government, Failed Freedom of Information Requests

In a ten-point complaint I clearly asked for clarification of a £44,000 debt for a failed tree plantation which I had heard of.  The City’s Chief Executive Valerie Watts wrote in early June to deny any money was owed.

Proof that this payment was made was given to me almost immediately  after Watts’ denial – but as of 21 July,Wattshas not explained the failure to disclose the repayment.

The proof is a letter the Forestry Commission sent to the City earlier this year which was copied to Ian Talboys.  The question is whether Watts knew of the letter when she wrote to me or not.  Until she explains her answer, the whole planting programme should be put on hold.  It is not just returning money for the past failure (we had to pay interest) but the implications for this new planting that need to be considered, which could be significant for the cash-strapped council’s taxpayers.

Watts was made aware of this repayment by me, and possibly earlier by others.  What is beyond the pale is that Freedom of information Officers continued for some weeks afterward to advise that no debt was owed.  All of the requests I have seen referenced the £44k figure; mine specifically asked for clarification of the matter.

If the City tries to use the excuse that since the debt was paid in March and the questions arrived in June, then that would be the most disingenuous logic coming from Town Hall in memory.  I am sure it is beyond the Council’s lowest standard to try and make pretence of using such a childish defence.  When we will get the truth is crucial – they must not be allowed to stall this matter until cull season opens.  If anyone trying to prevent the cull could ask their elected officials to have these issues addressed and investigated fully as an urgent matter, it will help.  I have asked the FOI office to explain whether or not it discovered this letter in its search to answer my question.  I have asked it to advise whether or not it made a deliberate decision to not disclose this letter.  I await the outcome of the investigation.

Yet another Freedom of Information anomaly exists regarding Grampian Fire.

Fire power

The previous article covered the problems of arson.  Confusion emerges as to the number of fires.  There was a FOI request response from Grampian Fire which shows a nominal number of deliberate fires.  At the time of writing I await permission to share or reproduce these figures, as they are apparently ‘copyright’.  I have officially applied to print them, but cannot do so until Grampian Fire’s officials approve my written request.

However I came across an internet document which shows a rather different, substantially higher number of fires than the FOI request revealed, entitled  ‘Grampian Fire and Rescue Service Category 2 – Advancing Community and Citizen Well-being’ .  This document states there were over 70 fires for 2006, and claims the figures were going down; it had partial 2008 figures and said only 11 fires started that year.  It is worth mentioning that there have been at least half a dozen fires in the Gramps since May of this year.  In any event, the paper’s numbers are not the same as the recently supplied figures, which are lower.

I will try to discover an explanation for the discrepancy, and will cover whatever explanation Grampian Fire sends in another article. Both email addresses for the FOI officer and the above paper’s writer are at the address ‘@grampianfrs.org.uk’, which leads me to conclude the same organisation might be responsible for distributing contradictory figures.

I add this to the ever growing list of things I am trying to discover, and yet all the while a cull remains the City’s goal, and the clock is ticking.

SNH – Natural Heritage as long as it’s not inconvenient

Scottish Natural History have been taking great pains to gain media coverage recently (BBC and local press), saying in effect that deer are great, but to stop them being killed in road accidents and over-populating, they have to be ‘managed.’  They launched a consultation, which many animal groups felt had a strong bias towards hunting and culling red deer and roe deer equally.  First, what kind of animal are we talking about exactly?

What are roe deer?

Recognition: Small deer, reddish brown in summer, grey in winter. Males have short antlers, erect with no more than three points.

Height: Average height at shoulder 60-75cm (that is less than 3 foot tall). Males slightly larger than females.

Weight: Adults 10-25kg

Lifespan: The maximum age recorded for wild roe is 16 years, but most die before 7 years.

Diet: Their diet is varied and includes buds and leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs, bramble, rose, ivy, herbs, conifers, ferns, heather and grasses.

By permission, the Mammal Society,
http://www.mammal.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&id=228

So in short these tiny creatures, of which we seemingly have 30 on Tullos Hill alone jeopardise a 40,00 tree plantation.  (The Council has made absolutely no mention of how they will tackle the weed problem cited by the Forestry Commission as a partial reason for the previous expensive failure – again, I have asked for this information with no reply).

Glasgow has made a strong statement against these types of culls which can be found at:
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/291204/0089678.pdf  and the relevant section starts on page 5.”

Here are some relevant extracts:-

“….collaborative deer management is not necessary for Roe deer in urban environments as there is no scientific justification for this.

2.4 There is no mention of the positive role of wild deer on natural habitats. Large herbivores help to create and retain glades and rides within woodlands, which provide habitat for a range of other species.

2.5 This section of the Bill has the potential to perpetuate and reinforce the perception of deer as pest species. Whilst this will promote the interests of a minority who have a vested interest in deer management principally through culling, it goes against the reason for the inclusion of native wild deer on the Scottish Biodiversity List, Le. the appreciation of these animals by the general public who wish to see them left unharmed.

2.6 Glasgow City Council believes that this section in its present form promotes an unbalanced view of the rationale behind deer management, whilst acknowledging that there is scientific justification for the management of red deer in parts of the Highlands.

Deer in Scotland – General Comments.

2.7 GCC object to the blanket statement that ‘Deer therefore need to be managed … ‘ for the following reasons:

• The terms manage/managed/management are not defined but appear to relate to culling deer, which is not the usual definition of management. This needs to be clarified.

• If the above is the case, then deer do not always require to be culled because in some areas an increase in population size could be beneficial.

•Red Deer and Roe Deer are quite different animals not only in size but also in habits etc. Why are they covered by one piece of legislation and why do they both have to be managed?”

The various animal charities I’ve communicated with all remain against this cull and have their own experts who explain the flaws in the entire premise.

Can we have some urban trees please?

A personal observation.  The section of Aberdeen I live in, Torry, has fewer trees on its main streets than any other part of the world I’ve lived in, city or suburb.  The streets are however covered with cars and trucks 24/7, and the exhaust fumes have air quality implications.

A few trees would do a good deal to clean the air.  It would be costly and difficult to plant and protect them.  But it would not be impossible.  We know from the Council’s websites that parts of Aberdeen (Wellington Road in particular) have serious air pollution issues.  We also know trees help reduce vehicular pollution.  In the course of my research I learned that the indigenous fir trees for the Grampian area have been greatly depleted over time – yet there is no plan to replace these native species.

Conclusion:  Stop this destructive, unwanted plan now and cancel any deer cull.  Plant fewer trees.  Plant in other locations

Unanswered questions
  • Regarding the business plan for the proposed forest.  How much will it make?  How disruptive would this plantation be to the area residents and businesses? 
  • Why does the City insist only a ‘minority’ of people are against this cull when elected bodies have objected on behalf of their communities?   If the Community Councils are lining up against this scheme – which started life as a Liberal Democrat election pledge – is it not just time to dump it?
  • Why didn’t the City disclose the £43,800 failure when asked to clarify whether a £44,000 debt existed?  
  • As the failure was due to deer and weeds – what are we doing about the weeds?  What kinds of pesticides will be used?  What are the risks and implications?
  • If the scheme is ‘cost neutral’ – who exactly pays the (low-seeming) estimate of some £2,500 per year for ten years to shoot the deer?
  • Have council employees been discouraged from expressing opinions against the cull? (My sources tell me this is the case).
  • Why take the scheme up at all if it must be done at the lowest cost – which is shooting the deer?  Who is hold a gun to the City’s head and forcing it to change Tullos Hill into something it is not?  What is the reluctance to just stop this scheme now?  Has the City made any effort at all to get sponsors to pay for the non-lethal options?  (Note: BAA and Wood Group have contributed for the phase 1 scheme – neither seem keen to be associated with this deer-culling phase 2.  Concerned people may wish to contact these and other companies to state opposition to phase 2).
  • What are the real arson risks once a forest is established on this windy hill (if indeed it is not too windy for trees to be established in great number)?   Is it possible the situation could be as severe a problem as the forest fires that plague the US and Europe?  What are the correct figures for the arson attacks?
A final summary

Last week a media contact asked me to supply the statement below, which sums up my conclusions and reflects the opinions of the vast majority of the people I have spoken with:-

The public have in no way given up on stopping the deer cull on Tullos Hill. Tullos is an important and beautiful ecosystem as it is, and the deer population has been stable for many years.   

Putting up signs to warn motorists that deer are in the area is sensible; putting 40,000 trees on this arson hotspot is not sensible.  Four Community Councils have told the Council they do not want the trees if it means a cull – these elected councils represent thousands of people. 

The City had to repay £43,800 for a planting on Tullos that failed due to deer browsing AND weeds.  The City initially omitted this when I asked for clarification- and I patiently await sensible answers to this and other questions. The tree planting was a Liberal Democrat election promise – it is amusing that it is this unpopular promise they are so stubborn about keeping. 

Finally, Peter Leonard has written to say that the Community Councils don’t understand the issues and they only know what they got from the media.  I find his remarks unbelievably patronising and insulting, particularly when it was down to the Council to communicate the details of its scheme in the first place. 

The Council kept the deer cull out of the phase 2 public consultation and is now claiming people don’t have the facts.  This is wholly unacceptable, and I am pleased that my sources tell me there is a great deal of unrest, with an official calling the situation ‘a hot potato’. 

Unfortunately the lack of timely, sensible answers looks to many people as if the City is stalling and hopes to get away with a cull.  There will be no cull without repercussions at the ballot box in May.

I am creating a presentation to give to any community council that wants it, particularly aimed at those councils which will have the City’s experts present their side.  Direct action is being considered by some animal rights/concern groups.

If you have any feelings one way or the other, then I urge you to contact your elected representatives (you may also wish to contact Scottish Representatives Roseanna Cunningham and Stewart Stevenson who are backing the proposal). 

Good luck to the roe deer and the wishes of the people of Aberdeen in the face of our government.

 Image Credit: Roe Deer Standing Still © Catalin Pobega | Dreamstime.com